Answer: Acute transverse myelitis (TM) is an inflammatory condition confined to the spinal cord, often associated with a recent viral infection, and often occurring in young individuals like yourself at the age of 19. The hallmark symptoms are acute (hours to a few days) to subacute (1 to 4 weeks) onset and progression of back pain, weakness and sensory loss below the level of spinal cord involvement, and loss of bowel and bladder function.
It follows the rule of, “thirds” with 1/3 experiencing near complete recovery, 1/3 partial recovery and 1/3 with little recovery. The condition rarely reoccurs and people rarely develop Multiple Sclerosis. There are alternative conditions to exclude, but this is a straightforward matter in most cases. Depending on the degree of residual problems, it is not uncommon to observe worsening symptoms later in life. The worsening symptoms and function may be related to secondary problems such as the development of arthritis, scoliosis or contractors or may be related to what the questioner referred to as “post-Polio” phenomenon.
By this we mean that the nervous system has a limited capacity to compensate for injury and respond to stress; this capacity may be overwhelmed with time and lead to accelerated aging or neurodegeration of pathways that previously were responsible for recovery. All individuals with significant residual symptoms and problems from TM (or any other neurological condition) should undergo periodic reevaluation (at least every few years) by someone with expertise in neurorehabilitation to ensure adequate adaption and recovery ensues and to prevent or manage secondary complications that arise over time.
An excellent source of information is The Transverse Myelitis Association (myelitis.org)
Rip Kinkel, MD
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